Originally written for Bonbon Break in May, 2016.
“Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4.” – CDC
Unintentional death. Accidental. Preventable.
In most instances, drowning is preventable.
I love what I do because I make people’s lives better. I help prevent drowning.
For the ‘Teaching a Healthy Respect for the Water’ Mini-Course, I’ve been discussing 10 basic swimming and water safety skills, which are introduced in my children’s book, Life with Lou. So far, we’ve looked at the following:
Swimming is a lifelong, lifesaving skill, so take it seriously. As you familiarize your children with new skills, don’t forget to go back and review what they have already learned. Repetition is important in the learning process. The more you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes, so you don’t have to consciously think about it. This is especially important with Skill #1 (Getting your face wet). Do not ‘protect’ your child’s face in the bathtub. It is just water. Be nice to it. Create a healthy relationship with it. Show your kids how to do the same.
My approach to swimming instruction includes a very balanced mixture of survival, technique, endurance, efficiency and fun. We always have fun. Every lesson is customized depending on the individual and the situation at that moment. Maria wants to be able to jump in the deep end and save her daughter if she falls in the pool. Sandy just became a grandmother and wants to refresh her skills to create a safer aquatic environment for her grandson. They are learning because they are aware that a healthy relationship with the water can save lives. They know that drowning is preventable.
SKILL #6: ROLL OVERS
Rolling over is an important skill for all ages and abilities to learn. Being on your back can be challenging and parents don’t like seeing their children upset, so they don’t ‘make’ them do it. Please don’t go about learning to swim this way, especially when it comes to the back float. Many children (and adults) don’t particularly enjoy floating on their back and find it difficult to relax. The idea is that you can roll over, relax and get a breath and rest if you become tired. This is a necessary survival skill. So, it’s a battle you are just going to have to fight – or if you won’t, then let a swim instructor do it.
To start, help your child with a back float (Skill #7 below) for 3 seconds, and then gently roll her over into a front float (Skill #3) for 3 seconds. Check out Stu the Otter showing Lou the Ant how to do roll overs in Life with Lou.
SKILL #7: BACK FLOAT
The goal is to have a quiet, calm body resting on the surface of the water. If your child is having difficulty relaxing on her back, try these suggestions:
Suggestions for helping your child back float…
– Relax: You need to chill out. If you are in the water with your child, show her that you are relaxed and confident. If your body is tense, she will feel it and will also become tense. Move your body gently through the water.
– Start with a hug and move slowly: Slowly turn your child away from you and give her a hug from behind. Now bring your hands underneath her arms, thumbs up, move her to the side and pull her against your shoulder. You should now be cheek- to- cheek with her. Do all of this slowly and fluidly, singing a relaxing song or whispering in her ear for comfort.
– Let your child feel your support: Move your inside hand under her bum and slide your other hand across her chest, maintaining the cheek- to- cheek position. Bend your knees and get down low so that your shoulders are under the water. Slowly walk backward, moving side to side so her legs float through the water.
– Don’t give up: If this is not your child’s favorite skill, don’t worry. But DO NOT GIVE UP. Counting is always a good tool. Start with a back float for 3 seconds, “1, 2, 3.” Move on to another skill and revisit the back float a few minutes later for 4 seconds.